It’s so damn hot out. I open the door to the oven outside, and the idea of walking to Safeway for a smoothie and some moisturizer seems like something worth procrastinating. I’d like to shut the door on the sweltering heat, the desire to lie in the shade, panting like an animal, was prominent. I need a drink. I need moisturizer. God it’s so hot out!
I change out of sweats and into a skirt, rotating slowly in front of the mirror by the front door, eyes roving over the reflection, making sure I’m covering up what society’s deemed tasteless of my body. My brother breezes past with a hello goodbye, artfully flicking his hair before slamming shut the door behind him with the self-approving glance lingering in his demeanor. I stare some more and adjust my clothing.
I step out onto the porch and recoil from the heat that is so rare in Alberta. The paper hooks my eye. Another tragedy in the Middle East. A woman got stoned for doing something insignificant, showing an ankle, trying to read, who knows? It’s so sad, defined as property, animals, domestic. I think about their burkas. I get to choose what to wear, isn’t that lucky? So long as I choose the right thing of course. I pull my skirt down in an unconscious yet self-conscious attempt to meet their standards.
The heat soaks through my teeth and eyelids, circling through my blood before hissing out of every pore of my skin. My bag bumps against my leg, jingling my change, keys and phone into some sort of soundtrack. I arrive and walk in alongside two other men, I can tell they’re my age by the way they walk as if they own the world which has entitled them success, 17, 18? They laugh behind me and I feel uncomfortable and paranoid, pulling down my skirt, smoothing down my hair, lowering my head. Everything must go down.
I walk past the aisles in search of drinks. They go somewhere else and I breathe, my pace slows. The advertisements for products grab my eyes with practiced fingers. A reverent housewife gazing adoringly at her muscled Mr. Clean, thank you for cleaning that up, I don’t know what I would have done without you! The personification of the tool as a man discredits the woman. The angel from the commercials for low fat cream cheese, lying seductive, skinny and gorgeous on the base of a cloud; she's an angel for watching her figure. Capable men, inadequate women, they are quite the market. I mean we are. After all, I am they. Isn’t it strange? Gender roles as a form of advertisement? My hands drop down to adjust the skirt. I turn to the aisle housing cosmetic products and beverages. I can hear the men from the entrance laughing in the next aisle down.
"Check it out, flavoured! Bitch’ll love that eh?”
They are in the Family Planning section. There’s a pang of irritation: Bitch. It’s such an ugly word, demeaning. At least it’s not me. I wonder who the girl is, though. I advance my way to a beverage of choice and pass some deodorants. Axe. The silhouettes of busty women all clamoring for the attention of the man wielding the product with the promise to ensnare them. I’d never noticed that before. I feel uneasy, like I represent something used. Sex sells, it’s the only way to sell. I wonder what it’s really worth? Another woman smiles shiny and plastic from the bottle of a moisturizer, blemishes stretched and distorted until she reaches the expected perfection. She’s beautiful, not real, but beautiful all the same. How did something so surreal as perfection become the minimum standard? She looks like my sister, carefully touched up so that when she goes into the day she cannot be undermined by the world. The two men walk by me down the aisle, the volume of their voices drop and they laugh softly, one of them grins at his friend before and after speaking.
There’s that grin. I feel embarrassed and my face closes with shame, but for some reason, I smile. Not at anyone in particular, it’s a mechanical mask meant to burn through my red face until it shows flattered acceptance. I automatically pull down my skirt. They take the smile as encouragement and walk on. The other guy looks back, eyes on the object they have turned me into, and wolf whistles, there’s that grin again. They turn and the corner swallows them whole. I pull down my skirt. I grab my drink along with the smiling woman, my fingers closed in over the parts that show she’s human. And as I walk down the aisle to purchase what I chose, I pull down my skirt.
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